Fifth Quarter (The Quarters Novels: Volume 1) – Tanya Huff
Daw Books, Inc., 2007
In the Havalkeen Empire, assassins are the sheathed blades of the imperial army, trained to take down any obstacle with ruthless efficiency. When brother and sister team Bannon and Vree are sent in to end a siege by killing a rebellious leader, however, they find themselves enmeshed in an impossible situation. Their target is not the vulnerable old man they expected. He is an ancient body-jumping spirit who, instead of dying as he was intended to, steals Bannon’s body and forces Vree into a dangerous bargain – because it isn’t Bannon he wants at all. Gyhard, ageless and remorseless, wants a new life as the youngest son of the Emperor, and if Vree is ever going to get her brother back, she’ll have to help him take it.
This story was included in a double volume with Sing the Four Quarters and expands on some of the ideas introduced in that first book, although the cast of characters is almost entirely new. As with Sing the Four Quarters, Huff takes on a type of story that’s not really new and makes it her own in a decisively interesting way. The romantic interest was uncomfortable but convincing and the idea of assassins being an integral part of the army instead of loners is something I haven’t seen done like this before. The series continues with No Quarter, which can be found as a standalone or paired with The Quartered Sea in The Quarters Novels: Volume 2.